Children living in closed military zone enjoy day of fun under the shadow of the occupation

On February 13th 2016 Youth Against Settlements in occupied al-Khalil (Hebron) organised a children’s activity in front of Shuhada Street checkpoint.

Children drawing during fun-day organised by YAS

Children drawing during fun-day organised by YAS

Around 50 children from the neighbourhoods located on the H2 (entirely Israeli military-controlled) side of the checkpoint – Tel Rumeida and the tiny strip of Shuhada Street still accessible for Palestinians – participated in the event organised by the Palestinian group Youth Against Settlements together with Old City resident Zleikha Muhtaseb.

Face-painting

Face-painting

The children have hardly had any chance to play and enjoy time with their friends since their neighbourhoods were declared a closed military zone on November 1st 2015. For the last three months only residents registered with the Israeli military have been allowed to access this highly militarized neighbourhood, where Israeli forces have stepped up their efforts to crack down on Palestinian residents’ everyday lives even more than in the many other neighborhoods suffering under the harsh Zionist occupation. Extremist Israeli settlers from the adjacent illegal settlements meanwhile enjoy complete impunity for their actions.

Girls writing their wishes for the future on balloons

Girls writing their wishes for the future on balloons

The children gathered at the Youth Against Settlements sit-in tent that was first erected over a month ago in protest of the ongoing restrictions and human rights violations inflicted under the closed military zone. They enjoyed creative activities including drawing, painting, balloons and face-painting.

Children playing with balloons

Children playing with balloons

Israeli settlers, walking inside the closed military zone without any hassle, harassment or ever being stopped, approached the checkpoint from the other side in order to gape at the children playing outside the checkpoint with balloons.

Settlers observing playing Palestinian children through the checkpoint

Settlers observing playing Palestinian children through the checkpoint

Children's drawings

Child’s drawing

Children's drawings

Child’s drawing

The immense psychological effect of the occupation on children living in these neighbourhoods was clearly visible in their drawings. They drew soldiers shooting Palestinians, families living in houses surrounded by barbed wire, imprisoned Palestinians dreaming of Palestinians guarded by a heavily-armed soldier; drawings also featured Palestinian flags and the words ‘I love Palestine.’

Growing up in an environment where the Israeli military occupation, with all its concurrent human rights violations, deadly violence, humiliation and intimidation permeates everyday life, the impacts are hardly surprising. Saturday’s event was a great opportunity for the children of these neighbourhoods to just be children again, to play with their friends, have their faces painted, enjoy childhood.

As the event ended they lined up outside Shuhada Street checkpoint, which the children have referred to as the ‘death checkpoint’ since the September 22nd extrajudicial execution of 18-year-oldHadeel al-Hashlamoun, to wait to be allowed to walk back to their homes within the closed military zone.

Children waiting to cross back into their 'closed military zone' neighbourhood

Children waiting to cross back into their neighbourhoods under the closed military zone

Before preparing to leave to return to their neighborhoods, the children from Tel Rumeida and Shuhada Street demonstrated their solidarity with the Palestinian journalist and hunger striker Mohammed al-Qeeqon his 81st day of hunger strike against the illegal Israeli practice of administrative detention – imprisonment without charge or trial in an Israeli military legal system which consistently denies Palestinians any right to due process of law.

Palestinian children in solidarity with hunger striker Mohammed al-Qeeq

Palestinian children in solidarity with hunger striker Mohammed al-Qeeq

(Source / 13.02.2016)

EP Delegation Calls for Immediate End to Israeli Settlements, Demolitions

The European Parliament (EP’s) Delegation for relations with Palestine, expressed alarm at the deteriorating situation on the ground, calling for an immediate stop to Israeli expansion of settlements, and demolitions, said a press statement by EP delegation.

Europees Parlement

“Israeli occupation policies are a direct threat to the two-state solution. The expansion of settlements, demolitions, forcible transfers and evictions must stop immediately,” Delegation Chair Martina Anderson said.

“Palestinians need hope, freedom and human rights. The way to these is by ending the occupation.”

Following the EU guidelines on the indication of origin of goods originating from the territories occupied since 1967 by Israel, the EP delegation, following a four-day official visit, assessed what further action the EU should take regarding settlements in order to comply fully with international law and EU legislation.

The EP delegation asserted, according to WAFA: “The EU must be a player, not only a payer,” stating that, “We are incensed by Israel’s increasing number of demolitions of humanitarian structures funded by EU taxpayers. People are losing their homes in the cold and the rain. Israeli policies violate international law and show disrespect for the EU, Israel’s biggest trade partner,” Chair Anderson said.

International organizations gave witness to the substantial deliberate targeting of EU-funded humanitarian aid structures by Israeli authorities, recently stepped-up apparently in retaliation for the EU guidelines on indication of origin of products from Israeli settlements. These demolitions are hitting hard particularly the rural Bedouin community, said the statement.

Members of the European Parliament further expressed concern at Israel’s use of administrative detention without formal charges.

They cited the ‘particularly alarming’ case of Mohammad Al-Qeeq, a journalist on hunger strike for 79 days. To be noted, over 500 other Palestinians, including minors, are currently detained without charge or trial.

Regarding the Palestinian internal reconciliation, the EP delegation affirmed that, “Palestinian reconciliation is more urgent than ever.”

“Elections must be held as soon as possible. A united Palestinian leadership is essential for the two-state solution and for the future of Palestinian youth,” Anderson said.

Anderson slammed the Israeli authorities refusal to allow envoy into Gaza as ‘unacceptable’. The European Parliament has not been allowed in since 2011.

The cross-party Delegation for Relations with Palestine was in the West Bank from Monday 8 to Friday 12 February. The group reportedly met with high-level Palestinian officials and civil society in East Jerusalem, Ramallah, Hebron, Susya, Abu Nwar, Jabal al Baba and the Jordan Valley, as well as with UN partners.

On February 6th, The European Union called on Israel ‘to halt the demolition of Palestinian housing, some of which was EU-funded, and reiterated its opposition to expanding Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank.’

“In the past weeks there have been a number of developments in Area C of the West Bank, which risk undermining the viability of a future Palestinian state and driving the parties yet further apart,” the EU diplomatic service said in a statement.

On 18 January Foreign Ministers in the Council conclusions confirmed the EU’s firm opposition to Israel’s settlement policy and actions taken in this context, including demolitions and confiscation, evictions, forced transfers or restrictions of movement and access.

(Source / 13.02.2016)

Gazans flock to Rafah Crossing as Egypt opens it for 2 days

Average opening of the Rafah Crossing is two days every 100 days

Thousands of Palestinians in Gaza flocked on Saturday morning to Rafah Crossing after it was announced open for two days by Egyptian authorities.

Gaza has been under an Israeli-led siege since 2007 and Egypt’s role in this siege is the closure of the Rafah Crossing and destruction of tunnels used to be lifelines for the besieged Gazans

Days of Palestine, Gaza Strip -Thousands of Palestinians in Gaza flocked on Saturday morning to Rafah Crossing after it was announced open for two days by Egyptian authorities.

It is the first time that the Rafah Crossing has been opened this year. Egypt announced on Thursday that the Rafah Crossing is open in both directions for two days.

Palestinian ministry of interior in Gaza said that 765 Palestinians had been approved to travel on Saturday.

The ministry said that over 25,000 people are in an urgent need to travel, including around 3,500 medical cases are on the waiting list.

Few number of these people are likely to travel due to the slow and complicated work mechanisms in the Egyptian side of the Rafah Crossing.

Gaza has been under an Israeli-led siege since 2007 and Egypt’s role in this siege is the closure of the Rafah Crossing and destruction of tunnels used to be lifelines for the besieged Gazans.

International community has never taken any real or serious measure to lift this siege; however, tens of officials in the East and the West have called for outing an end to this oppressive siege.

(Source / 13.02.2016)

Yemen: Staggering crisis, insufficient response

Yemen: Staggering crisis, insufficient response

Taiz, Yemen. Destruction of civilian infrastructure is a daily occurrence in Yemen

Sana’a (ICRC) – Dominik Stillhart, director of operations at the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), has just concluded a three-day visit to war-torn Yemen.

“I am appalled by what Yemenis are having to endure,” said Mr Stillhart. “Their quest for survival, food, water and shelter is a daily struggle amidst continuous air strikes and ground fighting. The restrictions on the movement of fuel, food and medicine into and around the country are making the crisis even worse.”


Al Azgool, Sahar District, Sadaa, Yemen. This family is living under very difficult conditions in a remote area of Sadaa and is dependent on aid.

The ongoing conflict in Yemen has forced more than two million people to flee their homes and claimed more than 6,000 lives. Over 30,000 people, including women and children, have been wounded. Health facilities, which are meant to be sanctuaries for civilians, have suffered more than 100 attacks since March last year.

As the conflict and people’s suffering have intensified, the ICRC has scaled up its activities. It is one of the few international organizations present across Yemen, with offices in Sana’a, Sa’ada, Taiz and Aden. In 2015, the organization helped more than three million Yemenis.

“We are committed to continuing to help all Yemenis, irrespective of their affiliation, provided our teams are allowed to work safely,” said Mr Stillhart. He described the staggering scale of the crisis and the insufficient humanitarian response, further curtailed by the lack of security and access for humanitarian organizations.

Over the past six months, the ICRC has repeatedly experienced serious security incidents, including an attack on its office in Aden in August, the killing of two staff members in September and the abduction of another – who is still being held – in December. This comes on top of the death of six Yemen Red Crescent volunteers since March.

“In spite of all that we’ve been through, we have chosen to stay,” said Mr Stillhart. “But if we are to deliver on our full potential and reach people across the country, the safety and security of our staff need to be ensured by those taking part in the fighting.” Unrestricted access to all parts of Yemen and across front lines must also be granted, including to areas like Taiz where heavy fighting is taking place.

(Source / 13.02.2016)

Dr. Ashrawi meets with EU Consul Generals and Representatives

DSC_0814

PLO Executive Committee Member Dr. Hanan Ashrawi on Thursday addressed the European Union Consul Generals and Representatives in a meeting co-hosted by the EU Delegation to the occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip and the Netherlands Representative Office.

The discussion focused on the internal situation, the need for genuine reconciliation, and the importance of holding local and government elections with international support and observers.

All parties also explored ways in which the EU can be more effective in empowering nation and institution-building in Palestine.

In light of the alarming conditions on the ground, Dr. Ashrawi urged the EU to adopt a new political and multilateral approach to end the Israeli military occupation of Palestine and to build a sovereign and viable Palestinian state within a specific and binding timeframe.

She also stressed that it is imperative to hold Israel accountable in view of its persistent violations and to take effective steps to end its impunity.

(Source / 13.02.2016)

US Iraqi Allies Now Fighting US Syrian Allies

The same Iraqi militias who were previously fighting ISIL alongside the U.S. are now actively collaborating with Russian and Iranian forces to “crush” American-backed rebels in Aleppo.

Syrian rebels attend a training session in Maaret Ikhwan near Idlib, Syria.

US backed Syrian rebels attend a training session in Maaret Ikhwan near Idlib, Syria

On the same day Syrian President Bashar al-Assad claimed his fighters would retake the entire country“without hesitation,”unnamed American defense officials revealed to the Daily Beast that the same Iraqi militias who were previously fighting ISIL alongside the U.S. are now actively collaborating with Russian and Iranian forces to “crush” American-backed rebels in Aleppo. According to the report:

“At least three Shia militias involved in successful battles against ISIS in Iraq — the Badr Brigade, Kata’ib Hezbollah, and the League of the Righteous — have acknowledged taking casualties in fighting in south and southeast Aleppo province. U.S. defense officials confirmed to The Daily Beast that they believe ‘at least one’ unit of the Badr Brigade is fighting in southern Aleppo alongside other Iraqi militia groups. Those groups are backed by Russian airpower and Iranian troops — and all of whom are bolstering President Bashar al-Assad’s Syrian Arab Army.”

Telling of the complex quagmire, the report indicates the same Shia militias fighting with the U.S. to maintain its installed government in Iraq are battling against the U.S.-backed forces — including those armed by the CIA — by bolstering Russian and Iranian efforts to bring control of the Syrian city back to Assad.

Of course, Saudi Arabia recently entered the Syrian theater under the premise of fighting ISIL, though as Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir reiterated on Friday, according to Al-Jazeera, “Unless and until there is a change in Syria, Daesh [IS, ISIS, ISIL] will not be defeated in Syria.” Reinforcing, to a degree, the U.S. stated purpose in Syria of deposing Assad, he added,“When Assad goes, the fertile environment which Daesh operates in Syria will be removed.”

As part of a tentative agreement among the major players in the Syrian imbroglio, including the U.S., Saudi Arabia, Russia, and Iran, there will be a cessation of hostilities which was set to begin yesterday — though that arrangement excludes ISIL and Jabhat al-Nusra, and shortly after negotiations, Russian airstrikes reportedly continued in Homs in earnest.

As Phillip Smyth of the University of Maryland, who studies Shia militias, said, “It is clear Iran is routing as many fighters as possible to Syria, particularly on the Aleppo front,” reported the Daily Beast.

Though murky politics and shifting or seeming contradictory alliances persist in Syria, it’s clear the conflict is intensifying. On Thursday, Assad said such a mix of regional fighters indicates “the solution will take a long time and will incur a heavy price.”

(Source / 13.02.2016)

Israeli military threatens village after residents protest settler bypass road

A Palestinian youth hurls a stone at Israeli forces following a weekly demonstration against the expropriation of Palestinian land by Israel, on Dec. 20, 2013 in the occupied West Bank village of Kfar Qaddum in the Qalqilya district

QALQILIYA (Ma’an) — Israeli forces raided the occupied West Bank village of Izbat al-Tabib overnight Friday after residents demonstrated against the construction of a settler bypass road on their private land.Head of the village’s local council, Bayan Tabib, told Ma’an that residents had protested during the day Friday after Israeli forces announced plans to confiscate their land to build a new road serving illegal Israeli settlements in the area.Tabib said Israeli military forces then stormed the Qalqiliya-area village in the night, searching several homes including his own.When the forces arrived to his home, an Israeli officer reportedly threatened the village council head to stop residents from demonstrating near route 55, the settler bypass road where locals had protested earlier that day.“An Israeli officer, who said he was the deputy commander of the Qalqiliya area, notified me that Israel won’t accept any more demonstrations on route 55,” Tabib said.“He threatened to take punitive procedures against me including the demolition of my house if I continue to coordinate the demonstrations,” Tabib added.The village council head told Ma’an that Izbat al-Tabib residents planned to continue “peaceful activities in protest against the confiscation of their land and the expansion of illegal Israeli settlements.”

An Israeli army spokesperson told Ma’an that “assailants” in Izbat al-Tabib had “hurled Molotov cocktails at security forces in the area,” who responded by “searching the area for suspects, who fled the scene.”
Much of the village’s land has been slowly taken over since Israel occupied the West Bank in 1967 and the majority of homes in the village — located in Area C under full Israeli military control — are slated for demolition, as residents were forced to build without permits, as they were unable to obtain them from the Israeli authorities.The illegal Israeli settlement of Alfe Menashe meanwhile has continued to expand to the village’s south.According to Tabib, around 25 acres of private Palestinian land in the villages of Azzun, Nabi Ilyas and Izbat at-Tabib are slated for confiscation before being reappropriated as a road connecting to nearby settlements.Such construction of bypass roads is ongoing throughout the occupied West Bank, where roads limited for use only by settlers and Israeli military cut across private Palestinian land in order to connect a vast network of Jewish-only settlements.The three villages identified by Tabib as facing land confiscation for the new bypass road are already cut off from neighboring Palestinian villages by the Israeli separation wall, which completely encircles the nearby Palestinian city of Qalqiliya.Meanwhile, Palestinian locals have limited access to route 55 — where Izbat al-Tabib residents have demonstrated several times before — despite its construction across Palestinian land.A spokesperson for the Coordination of Government Activity in the Territories was not immediately available for comment on the land confiscation.
(Source / 13.02.2016)

IOF raids different W. Bank areas at dawn

WEST BANK, (PIC)– The Israeli occupation forces (IOF) at dawn Saturday carried out widespread raids on homes in different West Bank areas. In Ramallah, the IOF stormed a commercial store in Beitunia area after detonating its doors and confiscated a Palestinian car outside it, without stating the reason. The IOF also entered the nearby town Rima and handed two young men summonses for interrogation from the Shin Bet. Local sources reported that one military vehicle sustained damage during violent clashes with the invading troops in Rima town. In al-Khalil, Israeli soldiers raided homes in Ghaith neighborhood near the Ibrahimi Mosque and interrogated their residents. Other Palestinian homes were also stormed and ransacked in separate IOF campaigns in Azbat al-Tabib town, east of Qalqiliya city, and in Tulkarem refugee camp. In Bethlehem, the IOF continued, for the fifth consecutive day, to close all entrances to Nahalin town, west of the town, at the pretext of looking for a wanted Palestinian.

(Source / 13.02.2016)

Journalists detained during peaceful protest in West Bank

Israeli occupation authorities killed two Palestinian journalists and wounded 190 others in 2015 [image from the funeral of press photographer Halid Ahmed]

Israeli occupation authorities killed two Palestinian journalists and wounded 190 others in 2015 [image from the funeral of press photographer Halid Ahmed]

Israeli forces detained two Palestinian journalists on Friday while they were covering the weekly, peaceful, anti-settlement demonstration in the West Bank city of Qalqilia, Quds Press has reported. The men were named as cameraman Ayman Al-Nobani from Wafa, and Mohamed Turabi from 24 FM radio.

The coordinator of the Popular Resistance in Qafr Qaddoum neighbourhood said that a large number of Israeli security personnel, accompanied by bulldozers, stormed into the area and attacked a peaceful demonstration. Murad Ishtiwi pointed out that the Israelis used gas canisters and sound bullets to disperse the protesters, causing a number of light casualities.

According to Ishtiwi, the Israelis prevented the two journalists from covering the dispersal of the demonstration. They were released when the protest ended.

Palestinian and international activists have been staging anti-settlement demonstrations in Qafr Qaddoum in Qalqilia for years. They are also calling for the Israelis to reopen the main road in the neighbourhood, which has been closed for 13 years.

(Source / 13.02.2016)

Syrian Coalition: Munich Agreement a Chance to Stop Bloodshed and Relive Those Besieged

Salem al-Meslet, member of the Syrian Coalition and a spokesman for the opposition’s High Negotiations Committee (HNC), said that HNC would participate in the upcoming Geneva talks only after women and children detained by the Assad regime have been released and humanitarian aid delivered to civilians in need.

Meslet called on those serious about stopping the bloodshed in Syria and end the starvation of civilians to seize the opportunity the Munch truce agreement offers. He warned that the deliberate mixing up of terrorist groups with mainstream rebel factions will certainly foil the Munich agreement.

For his part, Secretary-General of the Syrian Coalition Mohammed Yahya Maktabi said that observing the truce agreement would undoubtedly represent a step forward on the path of reaching a political solution.

Maktabi pointed out that the truce agreement proposes measures that, if fully implemented, would offer an opportunity to move ahead to a new stage.

However, Russia continued to carry out airstrikes on civilian areas in Syria immediately after the announcement of the agreement in Munich on Thursday.

The Secretary-General stressed the need for an international will to implement the terms of the truce agreement, adding that “we cannot stand against the will of the Syrian people as their aspirations, sacrifices of and goals are all legitimate rights that must be guaranteed.”

Maktabi urged the international community to shoulder its responsibility and demonstrate seriousness about making the truce agreement a success by ensuring the implementation of its key terms.

(Source: Syrian Coalition / 13.02.2016)